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World Rapid Team Championship in Düsseldorf

May 26, 2023

Does the name Rainer Becker mean anything to Fabiano Caruana? Has Levon Aronian ever heard of Manfred Schneider? If not, that will change soon. From 26 August at the Rapid Team World Championship in Düsseldorf, Becker, Schneider, Caruana and Aronian will play side by side as teammates for the World Championship title.

Today, Manfred Schneider (37) is primarily involved in chess as an arbiter. About 20 years ago, he supervised the chess group of the Koblenzer Straße grammar school ("Kobi-Gymnasium") in Düsseldorf. Among his chess students: Wadim Rosenstein, who, as CEO of the "WR Group", co-developed and sponsors the FIDE World Rapid Team Championship.

Schneider once guided Rosenstein to SC Baumberg, the first chess club for the talent from the Kobi-Gymnasium. Rainer Becker (51), Elo 2128, was Rosenstein's first mentor and coach. Rosenstein says, he owes a lot to both of them. Now he is gifting his early companions a chess treat: with the world-class grandmasters Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Dommaraju Gukesh and the Georgian Woman Grandmaster Keti Tsalashvili, Schneider and Becker will form a team in Düsseldorf that can have a say in the fight for the medals.

This fight will not be easy. The three-day competition in the Rheinterrassen in Düsseldorf promises a gathering of world-class players, which has only ever been seen in Germany at the Chess Olympiads 1970 in Siegen and 2008 in Dresden. Although the complete list of teams and players will only be published after the registration deadline on 10 June, the known line-up of the "WR Chess" team alone gives an idea of the upcoming Super-GM gala on the banks of the Rhine: Nepo, Keymer, Pragg, Duda, Abdusattorov, So, Hou Yifan, Kosteniuk, Rosenstein, Gustafsson (coach).

Favorites for the title: Team WR Chess.
Favorites for the title: Team WR Chess.

Spectators will have the opportunity to see these and other stars of the mental game at close quarters. Admission to the Rheinterrassen with its striking double-towered façade will be free. Those who would like to watch Caruana, Keymer & Co. play do not need to do anything else but drop by from 26 to 28 August.

Besides the world-class, the German elite will be almost completely assembled. While Keymer and Gustafsson have joined the WR team, the national players Matthias Blübaum, Alexander Donchenko, Rasmus Svane and Dmitrij Kollars have registered as "Team Germany and friends". The women's board is occupied by Luisa Bashylina, the U-2000 board by the Ukrainian Bohdan Lobkin, who is playing for German club Godesberger SK since March last year.

"Team Germany and friends" will probably not be the only quasi-national or continental team in the field. An Israeli team has already been entered, as well as an African and a Ukrainian team. When putting together their teams, all participants are challenged not only to gather the players with the highest elos from their ranks.

The U-2000 board is the clou that distinguishes this team competition from others. It represents a basic idea of the tournament: to give "normal" chess players a chance to compete at the world-class level. On five of the six boards, the teams may gather as many elite points as they like; all are forced to include an amateur whose elo rating has never exceeded 2000. Bohdan Lobkin from "Team Germany", for example, has a surprisingly moderate elo rating of 1795. Those who study the development of his national rating evaluations of past months will see the calculation behind his nomination: national rating 2049.

Up to 45 teams can participate in the first "World Rapid Team Championship". Entry fee per team: 1,000 euros. Prize fund: 250,000 euros. After the registration deadline, FIDE will announce the 45 participating teams on 12 June: the 10 best teams according to rating average, plus the 35 who registered first. The tournament will be played in 12 rounds Swiss system with a time control of 15+10.

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